Constant craving

June 29, 2014

I want to get married so badly it hurts. No, more than that, I want to be married. I had my chance, long ago, but I lost it when he changed his mind. I’ve written before about how I wish I’d had my chance, even if it had ended badly.

Of course I fantasize about my wedding day. I know how I want my bachelorette party to go, exactly what my wedding dress will look and feel like, the jewelry I’ll wear, my entrance music, what key songs need to be played at the reception, and on and on. I suspect I won’t feel much on my wedding day because my anxiety level will be so high, so it wouldn’t surprise me if my spouse and I handfasted sometime before the wedding and held the Great Rite on our own in the sight of the Gods so we can do some real energy work.

But what I crave is far more than the hyper quality of young love. I want the seasoned quality of a long-standing love—the kind of love you feel when you’re angry or even bored. The kind of love that offers renewal.

In Irish tradition, there is a well surrounded by nine hazel trees. The hazels, signifying wisdom, fall into the water where they are eaten by salmon (also a symbol of wisdom). Visitors to the Well of Segais eat the salmon, which gives wisdom and inspiration. “I am the hare which leaps for thee beneath the Moon.”

One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was standing behind the altar in Beck Chapel, watching a bride come down the aisle. I was there to priestess a wedding between two people who were Pagan but who didn’t feel safe coming out to their families. They’d written the whole coded ritual themselves. I stood in that place behind the altar, a place I’d been denied growing up as a Catholic, and thought about my spiritual ancestors who would have been burned at the stake for such blasphemy. I felt a great healing in my soul and in theirs that we had finally come full circle.

The ceremony was memorable for other reasons as well. In the beautiful vows they’d written, the couple defined marriage as representing “the endless promise of renewal.” I’ve never forgotten that. When the anger comes, when the tedium sets in, when the irritation is just humming there beneath the surface, marriage gives us a reason to stop, breathe into the emotion, feel it fully, and then reach beneath it. Find the Well beneath and dive deep.

One December 9th my love and I had a terrible disagreement. I won’t say “fight” because I was the only one who raised my voice. We were at an impasse in our relationship and he said the only option he saw was to “break apart.” Break apart, not break up. So apt. But he agreed to sleep on it.

I did not sleep. I stared at the ceiling for the next seven hours, turning over what he’d told me. He wanted me to change. He needed different things from me. I was too demanding, too high-maintenance. And as I considered the picture of my self which he had sketched, I realized I wanted it, too. And I didn’t just want it because he asked it of me. I wanted it for me. I wanted to be that woman with many interests and many relationships who could meet him as an equal instead of as a drain. My biggest question mark was whether or not I could do it. Could I change that much?

As I pondered intensely, I calmed down enough to examine my feelings. And I found that the surface love I felt for him was like the clarion call of trumpets—loud and sure but somewhat shrill. But for the first time, I became aware of a deeper love, one I’d never suspected. It was low and filled with bass, all cello and bowed bass and Scottish worn-down mountains instead of the jarring peaks of Colorado. As I sank into the sensation, I became aware that love for him permeated every atom of my being. There was no part of me that did not love him. And, terrifyingly, I was only experiencing the tip of the iceberg. This love was an entire symphony and I was only just now hearing the beginnings of the bass line.

When he woke up I told him I was sorry for raising my voice (he never raised his voiced at me; he considered us a team and any disagreement should be faced as a couple, not as adversaries). I told him I was ready. I would change. Not because he wanted it, but because I did. I would do the work. And I did.

Over the next several months I became more of the person I wanted to be. It changed my relationship with him. While he never said he loved me again, I could tell him I loved him and not be attached to the outcome. I became a more well-rounded person and got more of my needs met outside of the relationship instead of demanding that he fill them all. I found the Well of Segais. I drank from it regularly. And everything I did was informed by this bass line of love for him, and the more encompassing love I had for my self.

I knew I didn’t want the uneven nature of the relationship to go on indefinitely but I was fine with it for the time being. And eventually he decided that he didn’t want to change the way that I had. But for those months I had a glimpse of marriage, the endless promise of renewal.

I want to say “I’m sorry” and have it mean something. If I say it now, it’s because I’ve almost run into someone with my grocery cart at Marsh. I want to say it because I’ve inadvertently hurt the person I love the most and I want to make things right again. I want to doubt. I want to say “I trust you” and mean it with every cell. I want to feel my body relax into my spouse’s as we spoon. With my love, even that dreadful night of December 9th, we always kept contact while we slept, even if it was just our feet wrapped together. I want that animal comfort. I want to hog the sheets. I want to make love with every iota of soul I can dredge up. I want to fear losing my teammate. I want to be pissy. I want to argue over whether Scarlett O’Hara is a ninny or a chthonic force of nature. I want to be frustrated that we can never agree on what to eat besides pizza. I want to cry that we will never have children. I want to be a shield for his or her back, a pillow for his or her tears. I want to dig deeper, try harder, and have it mean something. I want to start again. And then again. And again.

Over the years I’ve heard many people speak enviously of the life I’ve built for myself, with its unbelievable freedom. What they don’t see is the loneliness. I’m so lonely I don’t even feel it most of the time. I’ve moved on to a place where loneliness is so ingrained that I just find ways to fill the time. Tap dancing towards the grave. These people with their spouses and their children and their friends and their colleagues and their maxxed-out lives and their built-in intimacy—I feel so alienated from them. They have no clue what it’s like to be me. They can’t conceive of it. I think of my sister and how she watches Netflix on her laptop while her 17-year-old daughter sets next to her and watches Netflix on her Kindle. That’s the kind of intimacy coupled people take for granted. And I am so jealous I want to screech down the phone at her and demand that I get this life, that I get this meaning, that I get this shot at creating something of value that will last.

It is so hard to be a better person when you don’t have a mirror. When you’re coupled, there’s always some edge you’re bumping up against. You’re insensitive, you’re rude, you’re unthinking—and The Other says, “Ow.” That gives you the opportunity to say you’re sorry and make amends and, most importantly, change yourself for the better. When you’re alone as I am alone, you don’t have anyone asking you for anything, so you just get stuck. You don’t even realize how your life is shrinking until it’s too late. In ritual I dig deep and find my truest self, but it’s very difficult to manifest that in an environment where the most taxing situation is presenting a new website design. I live with integrity but am I improving as a person? Am I growing? Or am I ossifying?

Love makes you supple. It intensifies everything and later mellows everything. It makes the stakes that much higher. And I love a challenge. I want the opportunity to be more than who I am. I want to be pushed to the limits of my self and then go beyond, like The Fool who walks off the cliff only to find that he can fly. I want to taste that symphony again, and even if I can’t maintain my connection to it every moment in my heart, I want my intellectual understanding of it to inform my everyday choices. I want to be married. I want more.

Same-sex marriage in Indiana!

June 26, 2014

What a day! Got the email early this afternoon that same-sex marriage was now legal! I was cheering and crying and jumping all around and yet not sure it was really true. I posted the graphic from the email to Facebook to see what kind of response I would get. And then my newsfeed was overflowing with jubilation!

The next thing I saw was a photo from the HT of Rev Mary Ann Macklin of the Unitarian Universalist Church performing marriage ceremonies down at the Justice Building. It was real! The waterworks really started!

All afternoon I half-heartedly tried to work while bouncing back to Facebook constantly for some cyber-celebrating. I couldn’t focus on work. I just couldn’t believe that Indiana—small, provincial, idiotic Indiana—would do the right thing. Of course same-sex marriages were being performed in Bloomington—I have many friends who have already been married in other states or who have gone through religious ceremonies. But what blew me away was that this same jubilation could be happening in Highland, Indiana, the hellhole which spawned me, or even in tiny, backwards Monticello, Indiana where my parents live! Unbelievable! I just kept chanting, “The arc of history bends towards justice!” and jumping around the house.

Of course it didn’t even occur to me to head down to the Justice Building until five minutes after they closed. Totally kicking myself for that one. I would’ve loved to throw confetti on people and just surround them with joy. Then Jane posted a link: The UUs were hosting a community potluck celebration at 7—should I go? Talk about social anxiety. Eek! I had signed up for a class at the library and could imagine reasserting my business self and damping down all my energy to go learn coding. But a part of me said, “This is history. Participate!” Amy promised to hold my hand and that decided it for me.

I can’t tell you how many times I cried tonight. Rev Macklin had all the couples who got married today tell a little bit about how they felt. Two different couples had been together for 25 years. Twenty-five years and no recognition! Insane. A gay couple, “Jeff and Jeff,” talked about the fears they’d had—Jeff 1’s mother is in assisted living and he and Jeff 2 are her primary caregivers. Jeff 1 had been haunted by the thought that something might happen to him and Jeff 2 would have no legal recourse to have a say in Mom’s treatment. What a terrible burden to bear!

There were couples who’d already been married in Iowa, Vermont, and Maryland—states that paved the way for our freedom. But one of the couples said how much it meant to them to have a marriage certificate that said “Bloomington, Indiana” on it.

There was a couple there who were the only people to get married in Brown County today. They said the clerk was very enthusiastic and they even closed their offices a few minutes early so that all the staff could witness the ceremony! What a blessed day!

A campus activist said how he’d been hearing from alumni all day saying how proud they were to be Hoosiers—even though they lived in California! But today was a day for reaching out, for celebrating, for saying, “Yes, I rejoice, too—we are here, together.”

I rang the Attorney General’s office this afternoon to ask them not to appeal. I got the busy signal for a while but kept trying until I got through. The operator was very nice, which momentarily gave me hope. Then I remembered what state I live in. 🙂 But still, we must make our stands. An activist briefly talked us through next steps tonight. I am dying for this issue to go to the Supreme Court and for same-sex marriage to be definitively made the law of the land. I don’t know if I can trust the current Court with it, but I do believe that day will come.

Which reminds me, one of the women tonight said she and her wife had been holdouts. All their friends were getting married out-of-state and telling them to give up, that Indiana would never change. But they held on and held on—and the blessed day came. As I was leaving, another couple came in. They were at least in their 60s. The one pushed the other in a wheelchair, where she sat with an oxygen hose to her nose. Who knows how much time they had left together? But they got their day today. I can’t imagine the tension of watching your loved one fall into ill health and not have full citizenship to formalize your relationship. That’s injurious to society.

From my journal today:

I am so excited for love, love, LOVE! I am excited for justice. I am so sicted for my friends like Amanda and Kim and Erica and Jane and Rob and Tom. I am excited that these rights are being recognized because Pagan rights follow about ten years behind LGBTQI rights and that can only mean good things for us. I don’t have any plans to marry a woman but holy CRAP am I excited that I finally CAN!

I don’t know what the future holds but I am ready to fight. I know we will win this in the end. Let love rain down. Let it rain. Bright Blessings!


Shame: Roman Catholic vs Witch

June 1, 2014

In therapy we are doing EMDR on shame. I started out a few sessions ago doing inner child work, which led quickly to a sense of disapproving adults. I see myself about five years old in a dark red space, curled in on myself, my body hot with emotion, my brain draining with horror at some shameful thing I’ve done.

One memory of shame is when I was celebrating my tenth birthday party. Because it was a family party, it meant lots of presents I wasn’t particularly thrilled with. But they were, after all, presents. I devoured them, ripping through the paper eagerly, barely looking at one before going on to the next.

My dad yanked my into the kitchen and gave me a dressing down. “You didn’t even say ‘thank you’!”

Oh, the shame! I wanted the proverbial hole in the floor to open up so I could be cast into the fiery pits. I knew I was in the wrong, and I knew everyone had seen it. There was no escape. I was a bad person. And to make it worse, I had to go back in and finish unwrapping presents, this time in a more subdued manner, being scrupulously polite. Awful. Scarred me for life.

The difference between making a mistake and feeling shame is that when you’ve made a mistake, you can say, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and move on. But when you feel shame, it’s intrinsically connected to the thought, “I’m a bad person.” It’s one of the worst feelings there is.

I have always wanted to be a good person. I took my cues from what my parents and teachers and the Church said, not what they did. I was always striving to perfect myself. And as I examine shame in my life, it doesn’t take long for me to shift from disapproving father to disapproving God.

I was raised Roman Catholic and had a special devotion to Mary. When I was 14 or 15 a famous statue of her was making its way around the country, hosted in churches and in women’s homes. I went with my mother to her friend’s house to pray the rosary. I was the youngest person in the room by far! I was setting on the floor, gazing up into Mary’s face, intoning the familiar prayers. She was in the usual pose: standing, her arms slightly out from her sides, palms forward, her head tilted down. Meek and mild. And as I stared at her face, I saw a gentle smile start on her lips. I sank deeper into trance. Then the smile melted and her face took on such an aspect of sorrow that my heart swelled with pain. I knew she was taking on the sins of the world, suffering so that we wouldn’t have to.

I was very taken by the martyr concept, particularly Mary and Jesus. I felt I had been touched by God to take on the sorrows of others and transmit them to the Lord. I would take on the world’s pain. I would feel intense sorrow, but I would bear it.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, they re-enact the trial of Jesus on Good Friday. The priest plays Jesus, of course, and the congregation plays the mob. This always ripped me apart. When the authorities try to free Jesus, we kept responding, “Give us Barabas! We want Barabas!” I felt a traitor to God, that I would call for Barabas when Jesus was the one I should be saving. It was excruciating. It was sick. It forced the congregation into the worst kind of behavior, pounding into our heads what miserable sinners we were. Shame on us.

Every act I did wrong was another nail in Jesus’ palm. Every sin was a spear thrust through his side. I could not live without inflicting pain on the Son of God. I could not be human without causing cruelty. I could go to confession and be absolved, but that was after the fact. And I would only do wrong again.

When we approached these memories and feelings with my present self, firmly rooted in Witchcraft, the whole situation changed. High Priestess takes my inner child in her arms and croons, “Oh, honey.” I am filled with compassion for my inner child’s suffering. And I explain that we all do things we are ashamed of, but that if we feel our feelings and make amends where we can, we can heal ourselves and move on.

There is no sin in Witchcraft. There are evil deeds, but there isn’t this obsession with sin and Hell that Catholics have. In contrast, we do the best we can with what we have. It’s a much more chill religion, more compassionate. We seek balance, not perfection.

In the Catholic worldview, all you do is fail, ask forgiveness, fail, ask forgiveness, and fail again. It’s exhausting. In the Craft, you just live. Every human emotion is holy. We seek balance above all things. It’s not about success or failure; it’s about acting honorably and cleaning up your messes when you make them. Because you will make them. But they are not the sum total of your being. Nor is it because you are intrinsically bad. Messes make you human. Not damned.

When I feel shame now, I pray on it. But it’s not complicated by wounding deities. I don’t ask a sky god for forgiveness. I ask Brighid to give me the courage to make things right and Rhiannon to give me the grace to come back into balance with myself and others.

These goddesses are not abstract divinities outside myself. They are strands in Gaia, the sacred biosphere, of which I am a part. They are aspects of the collective unconscious, which feeds me. They are aspects of my self. So I invoke the power of the sacred Whole, which is also the activation of my most authentic self. All of which restores my soul. I make amends from my place of deepest integrity, I feel my feelings—recognizing that shame is just as holy as joy or grief, and I correct my inner trajectory if I am straying from my path.

And as I sing in Barber’s Sure on This Shining Night:
All is healed
All is health
High summer holds the earth
Hearts all whole.